Raw Exposé: Not All Raw Is The Same
Congratulations on feeding your pet raw!
Although we know that feeding a raw diet for dogs and cats is the healthiest and most natural way. Sometimes we can fall into traps if we don’t do our due diligence. As raw pet foods take a larger portion of the pet food industry each year, it is providing wild west opportunities for those who wish to provide raw food for your pets. Kibble manufactures have long practiced using enticing phrases and imagery to make their products more appealing to us. Adding unnecessary cheap ingredients not because they are of benefit to our pets but because they add profits. Why would some manufacturers of raw pet foods be any different?
After several years of working in the field of raw and holistic pet food and seeing this “infant” industry (although raw feeding has been around for centuries) rapidly change into what I foresee as mainstream ideology, after all, “it just makes sense” to feed your pets a healthy diet. When I first began raw feeding, I could choose from only a small handful of companies at the time and it was not too confusing. Some of the early grass root manufacturers had started out with their own personal frustrations with their pet’s health ailments or less than optimum conditions. Others’ motivation was the fact that current agricultural based kibble simply did not make sense to feed to their loved ones and there where no options but to make it themselves. The highly motivated ones became the raw pioneers in Vancouver. Names like Red Dog Blue Kat, Club Canine and 3P Naturals, Amore, were the early ones. A few years later there are too many names to mention and probably many more to come.
Along with more options comes more confusion. It is without surprise that the buzz that this new/old diet has now is making some companies put profits before product.
By looking closely at the ingredients list and knowing how to pick out questionable or unnecessary ingredients you will have a better understanding of what you are actually buying. Another giveaway is the price. Let’s say I was shopping for a pound of grade A Canadian beef for myself, and the best price I could find was $6 a pound. I then proceed to buy a complete beef dinner for my dog. I purchase one pound of it and the total comes to $3.50. Do I say I got a great deal today or do I question, why is my pet’s food so cheap?
Here are some ingredients that you should look for to help you determine which raw food brand to choose when scoping out the various raw pet food manufacturers.
- Grains – Grains have little nutritional benefit for dogs and cats. They are usually used as fillers to bulk up the food at a lower cost. The high carbohydrate and starch content can cause issues for dogs and cats such as: weight gain, plaque build up, yeast infections, bloating, and allergic reactions if your pet has an allergy to grain. Ingredients that are classified as grains include but are not limited to: white or brown rice, barley, whole or rolled oats, etc.
- Beet Pulp – Beet pulp is the by-product of processing sugar beets. DogFoodAdvisor.com describes beet pulp as “a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.” Beet pulp is often used by dry kibble manufacturers as a filler to bulk up food. This is another ingredient that can be used by some raw manufacturers to bring the cost of production down.
- Carrots, Sweet Potato, Potato, and Apple – Overuse of root vegetables and fruits in raw dog food can also be an indication that fillers are being used. Although dogs do benefit from some vegetable and fruit content in the food, feeding too much and for every meal is not necessary. Since it is cheaper than most meats, it can be used as a filler. Root vegetables contain unnecessary carbohydrates and sugar; causing many dogs to become yeasty, itchy or sensitive.
- Apple Pulp – Used completely as a filler, this cheap waste product is finding its way into a couple of brands on the market. If you like volumes of poop, then this is something to seek out, otherwise we say pass on this raw food if your brand contains it.
- Oils – Oils such as salmon oil, flax oil, coconut oil or sunflower oil can be very nutritious for dogs and cats and can help with many things such as skin and coat health, hair balls for cats, and brain development in puppies and kittens. But when raw pet food manufacturers include the oils in their raw pet food mix, we see it as a little bit odd. Oils oxidize and turn rancid very quickly with exposure to air. This will happen while the product is frozen as well but a little more slowly. We believe the best way to add oils to your pet’s food is to add it just as you are serving the food in order to keep the oil fresh and nutritious. Knowing the source of the oils and quality is also very important. Is the oil from non-GMO ingredients? Is it wild caught salmon? Is it cold pressed or heat treated? And so on.
- Alfalfa and Pea Protein– Alfalfa or pea protein can provide positive benefits but can also be a detriment to your pets health at the same time due to overuse. Is it necessary? You decide.
- While alfalfa and pea are high in protein, the proteins derived from plants such as these don’t contain all the amino acids your carnivorous dog or cat requires. That’s why pets require meat-based nutrition – the protein in animal tissue provides a complete amino acid profile as well as intracellular moisture.
- Garlic – Although it is great for us humans, we advise against using garlic supplied by ready made pet food. Garlic has had a lot of attention and controversy on whether it is good or bad for dogs. Most of the garlic used for commercial purposes, both in raw pet foods and human foods alike, is sourced from China. Garlic has great antioxidant properties, boosts the immune system and helps with fleas along with a few other benefits. Incorrect use of garlic can also lead to thinning of the blood. We highly recommend to simply add your own if you understand the correct and safe dosage for the weight of your dog and you have done your own research whether you wish to supplement garlic or not.
- Hormone Free Chicken- This is one of my pet peeves (pun intended). Taking a page out of the great kibble marketers, there are a few raw manufacturers listing hormone free chicken as a benefit in choosing their product. Did you know that all chicken sold in North America, is hormone free and has been since 1959? Antibiotic free, however, is much different than a meaningless hormone free label.
- Chicken and or with bone. – Chicken and bone, or sometimes referred to chicken with bone: what does that mean? I am constantly in communication with most raw food manufacturers, some local, some not. I am amazed at the different opinions to a seemingly simple ingredient. Is it actually chicken with some bone or is it really bone with some chicken? In most cases it is the latter. One way to evaluate the meat content on the label is to check out the price. If the chicken is cheap, chances are it’s simply chicken carcass (chicken back with only a bit of meat and fat attached). Nice try, but why can’t you just say that it is chicken carcass? Many people serve this to their pets every day, unaware that it lacks many nutrients and the high protein levels needed by our pets. Nothing is wrong with feeding a chicken carcass as a rotational meal but for heaven’s sake say what it really is. Here at True Carnivores, we sell chicken carcass and chicken, available with or without bone.
- Complete and balanced – This term is often misconstrued to mean that this brand of food is complete and balanced so you need not feed anything else. Nothing can be further from the truth. This labeling guideline simply means there is meat, organs, bones and usually vegetation in the recipe. We at True Carnivores eschew that the only complete and balanced approach is balance over time. Sometimes complete and balanced fed daily ends up being heavy in one area or another, usually in the form of starch and sometimes even grains. Is there really such a thing as one food being complete and balanced, and healthy to be fed daily?
- Molasses – A source of minerals, molasses is also high in sugar. Made from the heating of sugar or beets, it is also used as a flavour enhancer. Because we love to see added mineral supplementation in foods, there are several fabulous mineral products on the market that can be added without the sugar: kelp, fulvic-humic acid, Dr Dobias`s Green Min and Soul Food, are all remarkably cost effective and many of our clients even take these supplements themselves.
Choose a raw pet food manufacturer that is a) transparent and b) truly making food for the benefit of the animal. Trying to find the cheapest raw pet food to feed is a tricky business and doing your due diligence will help you learn so much about how to make a decision.
Additionally, like our own butchers, grocers, and service providers, we would never deny a reasonable margin for them to continue to provide us with goods and services. The same goes for our pet food manufacturer. One of my findings over the years is that there is very little margin with quality raw pet food. The higher the quality, the lower the margin. The cheaper the ingredients the higher the profit.
No one I know gives pet food away.
Please feel free to contact us by email, phone, or in person at our store if you want to learn more about choosing the right raw pet food for your dog. We are always available and willing to help every pet’s well being.
-The True Carnivores Pack